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Tuesday, August 25, 2009


And on the subject of gay rights...

...a shout-out to my American friends: same-sex marriage is up for grabs in Maine.

Or rather, it's been made legal, and there's another one of those hateful propositions, called Proposition 1 this time, to overturn it.

I don't know what is wrong with people that they feel stopping their fellow-citizens from having a recognised partnership with the one they love is a good thing to do, but they're on the march again, and the time to start acting on it is now. One of my favourite bloggers, Greta Christina, has an excellent post here about why it's important to get behind stopping Prop 1 and get behind it now - she blogs about sex, so her site may or may not be work-safe, but I'd highly recommend you check it out when you have the chance. One of the points she makes is that the sooner people start getting on board with the campaign to stop Prop 1, the better a chance they have of succeeding.

I'm not an American citizen, so there's a limit to what I can do here; when I tried to send money to block Proposition 8 it had to be returned because there are laws against non-citizens donating to political causes. But if you are, there's a lot you can do, and here are the fine people who are doing it: Protect Maine Equality.

It's not my state or my country, but it is my world, and it is my fellow human beings. The way we treat gay people is disgraceful, and the sooner the discrimination is rolled back, the better. I live in a country where same-sex couples still don't have the right to marry - we only have that flimsy separate-but-equal civil partnership rubbish - and the more other countries get on board with giving people proper rights, the sooner my own nation will be shamed into doing likewise, and other nations too. This is a matter of societal norms: people to whom normality is important - ie the kind of people who discriminate against gay people - are influenced by the law of averages. The more places give gay people full rights, the more they'll start to understand that this is the normal, reasonable thing to do. A victory for any of us is a victory for all of us.

I've been reflecting recently, too, on the importance of the gay rights movement for everyone. The right to have the kind of sex you choose without being punished for it is an incredibly important and an incredibly difficult right to get. People are conventional, and they're revolted by just about every sexual act they aren't aroused by, and they can get very unpleasant if somebody grosses them out. I work from home, and to get some social contact I chat to people online. Sometimes the subject of sex comes up, and when people start talking about what they like the variety is impressive: whether gay, bi or straight, monogamous or polyamorous, cuddly or fetish (or both), transgender or whatever, people are a broad spectrum. Without the right to sexual freedom, a lot of non-gay people will get it in the neck too. But it's worth noting that people are talking about their alternative activities at all. They talk about their differences, and they don't expect to be shamed or attacked.

And who do we have to thank for that? Gay people. Specifically, the ones who were brave enough to get out into the streets and show the world that you can have a minority sexuality and still expect to be treated like a human being. The gay rights movement are among the great heroes of recent history, from their fight for equality to their invaluable work spreading safe sex awareness to their fundamental lesson: that what you do in bed is your own business and nobody else's, that your body is your own and that other people have no right to treat you as less than fully equal because of what you do with it. And without ownership of our own bodies, we aren't free people. Even if we don't want to do anything with our bodies that societal norms would condemn, we need the right to. Otherwise we aren't doing it out of free choice. There's a word for someone who doesn't have the right to do what they wish with themselves: slave.

So we all need to support rights for gay people. It demeans us to treat other people as lesser to begin with, but we've also all benefitted from the courage that's been shown over the decades. We need to have their backs, because they've got ours. Deliberately or not, they always have.

If you're in the position to do anything: help the people of Maine. Whoever you are, it's helping yourself.

Hear hear!

I remember when Canada was having this debate, I was listening to some phone-in show on the CBC, and the topic was same-sex marriage. Some bigot called in and claimed that allowing same-sex marriage was a violation of his rights.

"In what way" asked the host, skeptically.
"It violates my rights to an exclusively heterosexual institution." the bigot replied.
Wanker. (Him, not you.) He's got an exclusively heterosexual institution right there: his own marriage. Assuming anyone's unfortunate enough to marry him.

The right to treat your fellow human beings as less human than you, on the other hand, is not a right.

Man. Grrr. Bad man. How pathetic do you have to be before you need to pride yourself on the ordinariness of your sexual tastes? Does that guy have so little else to be proud of?
Great Blog, I'm in the UK and think it is about time the laws were changed. It astounds me that as a civilised and 'advanced' society these issues haven't already been resolved.

Hi, Julie, welcome! :-)
Gay rights is about freedom, and not just sexual freedom. In general, it's about the freedom to live according to one's own conscience rather than suffering under an attempt to meet the expectations of others.

The average person is met with several expectations placed on them by others -- family, friends, colleagues, and even society at large -- in every aspect of their lives. They're expected to make certain educational, career, social, and political choices. And often, it's far too easy to accept and meet those expectations due to the pressure they place upon one.

Now that I've rejected society's (not to mention my own family's) expectations as to how I will express romantic and sexual intimacy in my life, I've found it easier to look at all those other expectations that affect other areas of my life and consider whether attempting to meet them really serves me any more than attempting to meet the expectations of heterosexuality. Some I have chosen to accept. Others I have chosen to reject, following my conscience and the yearnings of my innermost being instead.

Sometimes, I think this may be part of the reason why people still oppose gay rights. It shows the way to a degree of freedom of conscience that frightens some people. They imagine a world where people are truly free of the expectations of others would be a terrifying place. But it's not. Because such a world offers a way of relating to one another that is even more incredible to behold. Or at least that's been my experience.
Just because you seem interested in civil and human rights as they pertain to sexuality, I thought you might enjoy the blog a friend of mine writes. She's a writer, translator, and alternative sex educator:

Thanks, I'll check it out. :-)
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